Photo courtesy of Sara Steyaert
Yesterday, Dylan Casey looked back on his time in the saddle, and on his career with The US Postal Service; today, he looks forward to life after cycling...
Dylan and his fiancée, Sara
Are you glad to be making this change?
Yeah, for sure. It's really exciting.
I feel like have the entire world in front of me with endless possibility. It feels like graduating from college again.
I met with Mark Gorski in November and we reflected on his past and how he had gone through a similar experience to the one that I'm about to go through and he was really excited for me. He said it was like I had a white canvas in front of me and I could paint anything I wanted. I'm sure I'll miss the thrill and excitement of racing and I'll miss being part of the USPS team. But there are so many things that I won't miss and there are so many things that I'm looking forward to, like starting a family and leading a normal life.
What are your plans at this point? What kind of work are you looking for?
I've spent a lot time revisiting my past and defining my skill set to present it in such a way that is transferable to a new career. Fortunately over the years I've made a lot of good contacts with people who are very willing to help. So, I've been meeting with many of them to explore opportunities. It's not exactly the best time to be making a career transition, but I've had some promising opportunities present themselves, which also influenced my decision to stop racing.
I could have kept racing but I decided that I wouldn't be gaining anything from it and that I needed to spend my energy on investing for my future. I've identified business development and marketing as two fields that fit my skill set. In fact, I'm involved with a software company called First Person Software, which was founded by two friends. The company is about 6 months old and looks very promising considering that they received funding in the current economic climate here in Silicon Valley. I have a few other companies that I'm currently interviewing with, so I'm very busy with that whole process and I think it will be a few more weeks before I finalize everything.
What do you like about business development and marketing?
Being successful in those fields is really about relationships, attention to detail, being able to think on your feet, creating clear objectives and goals and then executing (just like training for a race and then performing on race day). I really like the art of the deal.
I hear you're getting married, too! (Congratulations!) When did that happen, and did that play a part in your decision to hang it up?
Thank you! I proposed to my girlfriend, Sara, while we were in Hawaii for our annual vacation. Starting a family was a huge factor in my decision. It's something I've put off for a long time.
What have been the greatest sacrifices you've made for cycling? What was hardest about the life?
For the last 8 years I missed countless weddings, birthdays, special events, time with my family, friends and girlfriend. Not to mention putting my whole life on hold in some ways. The hardest part about life as pro cyclist is the time away and the uncertainty of the future.
I know a lot of cyclists end up having a really difficult relationship with the rest of their lives because the job is so consuming. Did your friends, family, girlfriend, etc, support you in your career, despite all the sacrifices?
If I didn't have the support of my family and especially my fiancée, Sara, there is no way I would have been able to do what I did for so long.
How have they all supported you?
There is no way I would have made it through my injuries without my family. Sara nursed me back to health during all of those difficult periods. But, the support I received from my friends and family extend far beyond just the obvious situations.
When I decided to pursue cycling, I had no income or source of money. So my Dad gave me a stipend of $200 per month, which is exactly how much my student loan payment was. My theory was that no matter how bad things got, if I could at least pay my one and only bill, I'd make it. At the same time, I lived with Sara in a small studio apartment in Palo Alto, Ca while she was going to Stanford to get her masters. My parents were fully behind me, despite the fact that I was taking a very non-traditional path out of school. It was during those times that I was taking a huge leap that my family and friends supported my goals.
Are there things about being a competitive, racing cyclist are just irreplaceable? How has your life changed so far.
It's hard for me to comment on that because it's really only been a few weeks since I made my decision. In a lot of ways my life hasn't changed too much yet. I still have the freedom associated with the off-season, and I still ride my bike for fun a few days a week. But, I'm sure I'll miss the thrill of racing and the personal accomplishment I felt when I was riding well or winning races. However, I plan on finding new venues to succeed.
Will you continue to race locally, or join a local club or team?
I don't have any plans to race locally, but I ride on the weekends with all my cycling friends on the Marathon team here in the South Bay Area. My friend, Bill Hudak, says that if I get the job he lead me out for (he helped get me the interview) that I have to do a few races for his squad… So, we'll see what happens. In fact unless I file an official letter or retirement with USADA and USA Cycling, they're going to continue drug testing me out of competition. I wonder how that is going to go over when the drug testers show up at my work. "uh, you're going to have to wait here in the lobby until I'm off work."
I understand that you train some people, are you planning to continue with that?
Yeah, even though I don't plan on pursuing a career in the cycling industry, I'd like to stay involved and guide some up and coming riders. I think a lot of the experience I gained over the years and all the things I learned could help out other riders.
Do you have a best memory or a worst memory of your career? Do you have any regrets?
I have so many good memories that it's hard to pick one as the best, but the first race I won in Europe where I beat Chris Boardman by less than one second in a TT stands out as a good memory. The year before I had five 2nd places so it was awesome to finally win and it was incredible to win in front of such a great rider like Chris.
The two worst memories are pulling out of the Olympics the day before my event because of a knee injury and crashing into a sound man on the finish line, breaking my pelvis and collar bone.
My only regret is that I didn't take more pictures along the way.
Looking back, what did you learn from your life in cycling? What are the things the sport gave you, and how do you see them serving you as you look to the future?
I have enough lessons to last a lifetime.
Cycling teaches you how to dig really deep and suffer; to go beyond your limits and back. I learned that the most rewarding things in life come from hard work. I learned that how one responds to times of difficulty and challenge is what really defines one's character. I learned to have confidence, and that the only limits are the ones you place on yourself. In my next chapter, with these lessons, I'll be able to face any challenge head on.
As a cyclist, what were your greatest strengths - I don't mean on the bike, - but more psychologically - what is it about you that you think made it possible to sacrifice like you must to race a bike at the highest level? How will the same strengths serve you now in your new chapter?
I've achieved things and gone further than many other riders I knew who were far more talented than me. I am very tenacious, driven, motivated and almost compulsively obsessed with succeeding. I've always gone after what I wanted with the throttle wide open. I've been told by so many people along the way to forget it, that I wasn't good enough or whatever, and that just made me work even harder.
In cycling you only get out of it what you put into it and I liked that. Now that I'm pursuing new objectives and beginning a new career, I'm using those same traits.
Chris Carmichael has been your coach, right? How and when did you meet him, and what effect did it have on your career?
I met Chris in 1998 at the1st Ride for the Roses Criterium in Austin. I had a good race and put on a good show with a majority of the race off the front solo. Chris came up to me after the race and introduced himself and asked if I had a coach. After I told him no, he offered his services and the rest is history. That year I won both national championships on the road and the track. In 1999, I really improved and was 3rd overall in the Tour of Holland. In 2000, I won 4 races and earned a spot on the Olympic Team. So Chris was a big influence on my career and responsible for much of my success.
Chris really motivated me to go for it. He made me believe that I could win and this is just as important as planning out the mechanics of a training schedule. As for the training itself, the greatest benefit came from having a big picture approach to the year and then breaking it down into smaller goals. Chris was good at preparing a plan and then it was up to me to execute.
You have a lot of personal sponsors. Will your relationship with them continue now that you aren't racing?
I plan on staying very involved with my sponsors. I've developed great relationships with all of them over the years and I've become close friends with many of them.
I'll be the only guy in the corporate world sponsored by Oakley. My contract with Oakley was through 2003. Even after I announced that I wasn't racing anymore they were still sending my retainer. I sent it back with a nice note saying that I couldn't accept the money, but I'd like to keep wearing Oakley. Pat, Stephanie and Blick are some of the best people I've known in the cycling world.
Also, Gerald at Briggs Datacom, has made it possible for me to sit here and respond to your emails by totally equipping me with a hot rod lap top and various other pieces of equipment. In fact, he sent me a full Wi-Fi kit a few years ago. I'm realizing now that having set up a Wi-Fi network both here in the US and in Spain is adding to the skill set that I'm now presenting to potential employers. I've always been a tech follower, so Gerald has helped me stay with the trends.
As for Peet's Coffee, I'm not sure who works for whom. I've been lucky enough to have a relationship with them that really benefits both. I get coffee and they get evangelical support from me and everyone I can convince to drink their coffee.
I'll stay in touch with Kurt Stockton at Time. He knew me when I was just a cat 3 at Santa Barbara. I can't imagine using any other shoes other than Time. It's the only way my Grandmother could pick me out in the bunch.
I'd also really like to thank Spinergy who gave me a job during my early years. I was able to work for them and race at the same time. If it wasn't for Spinergy, I don't know how I would have made ends meet. I didn't really get paid a solid salary until I signed with US Postal in 1999.
While at USPS I developed relationships with Nike, Trek, Shimano, Cliff, Visa, and Giro. I won't continue to work with them on a sponsorship level, but I hope to remain friends with the people that made it possible for me to have a career in cycling. In addition, Lance at Sinclair Imports, Shane Cooper and Greg Demgen at DeFeet, are awesome people working for awesome companies that have been totally supportive of me and will continue to support me in the future.
I read on your website that Trek gave you a hotrod bike - Did that come as a surprise to you? What's cool about it?
Trek gave me the ultimate retirement gift. It's the quintessential gold watch, only I can ride it. The guys over at Trek built me a custom painted OCLV 5900 Project One bike kitted out with full DuraAce and all the nice Bontrager goodies. It's a great bike and I've really enjoyed riding it around. I was really surprised that they would do that for me. It was a really nice gesture on their part and speaks highly of their commitment to the team and the riders who make it all a success.
I heard you were recently in Santa Barbara riding with your former teammates. Have you made friendships with your teammates that you will carry into the future?
Yeah, I was down there last week for a few days enjoying some time with George and Lance. It was nice to see those guys and visit Santa Barbara. I really discovered how much I liked cycling when I was going to school there, so I always enjoy going back.
In 1999, my first training camp with US Postal was in Santa Barbara, so it was nice to go there and put closure to my career. Kinda of like coming full circle. When it's all said and done the only thing you have left when the race is over are memories and friends, so I hope that my friendships remain long after the memories have faded.
If all goes perfectly, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
That's a classic question. It there is one thing I've learned over the last few years, it's that nothing ever goes perfectly, but I do know that as long as I have my family and friends and the ability to roll with the punches, I'll be doing great!